BBC HTML DMCA OMG

 Criminal IP Enforcement, Examples, Uncategorized  Comments Off on BBC HTML DMCA OMG
Feb 132013
 

Last week the BBC contributed its thoughts to the W3C committee contemplating the Encrypted Media Extensions Proposal to the HTML standard, which would allow for more standardized video viewing across multiple platforms.  After establishing its bonafides as a source of Internet video broadcasting, it got to the point.  The proposal, it said, was was overall a helpful one as far as the standardization was concerned.  Technological fragmentation is a problem for someone who wants to make sure their video is viewable to a wide audience. Despite that enormous benefit, however, the BBC could only support the Proposal if it incorporated a DRM standard such that the BBC could pointedly control the retail market for its programming.

It’s worth questioning whether manipulating markets ultimately enlarges them — or, instead, potentially reduces them — but that’s not a subject for these pages right now.  The problem was how the BBC required the proposal to be changed in order to ostensibly enable such manipulation:

The proposed Encrypted Media Proposal looks to be a useful starting point. However, the BBC is unlikely to be able to use any such mechanism unless we feel that it is sufficiently secure that there would be the possibility of legal action in the event of bypassing it.

This is not an easy qualification: the W3C is an international body, and laws on bypassing technical protection measures vary significantly from country to country. In this instance the BBC would be looking for such a mechanism to be secure enough in the UK that it would be a “effective technical protection mechanism” under section 296zb of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as modified by the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003). We expect that other providers will look for similar assurances in their own territories, such as the anti-circumvention provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the United States. (emphasis added)

To summarize, the BBC, “the world’s leading public service broadcaster,” “established by a Royal Charter” and “primarily funded by the licence fee paid by UK households” with a “mission […] to enrich people’s lives with programmes that inform, educate and entertain,” has just lobbied an international technical standards organization charged with “lead[ing] the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web” such that it enables “involves participation, sharing knowledge, and thereby building trust on a global scale” to make its standards such that people could be imprisoned for using that very technology in a way the BBC did not like.

True, perhaps the BBC was only contemplating there being civil penalties, which is problematic as well. But both the DMCA and section 296zb of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 allow for state criminal enforcement when people circumvent technologies designed to control access to content, regardless of how legitimate that access would be.

Feb 092013
 

The following case, Twentieth Century Fox v. Harris, is not a criminal matter.  But I want to include it here nonetheless in part because it’s important to talk about copyright policy generally, particularly given the increasing trend for it to be criminalized.  And in part because, in this case, hardly two weeks after I asserted that copyright infringement analogized more to trespass than to theft, a court in England independently reached the same conclusion. Continue reading »

Twitter Joke Trial at High Court

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Feb 082012
 

Two years ago Paul Chambers, a Twitter user in England, tweeted his frustrations about the closure of the airport in Nortern Ireland was scheduled to fly into:

“Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

As this article in the Guardian summarizes,

A week later he was arrested by five police officers, questioned for eight hours, had his computers and phones seized and was subsequently charged and convicted of causing a menace under the Communications Act 2003.

That conviction was first upheld by the Crown Court, and a subsequent appeal has just been heard by the High Court.

Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 provides that “[a] person is guilty of an offence if he sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.”  This case appears to boil down to whether or not the tweet was truly menacing, and by whom, and under what standard, its menacing character should be judged.

Chambers insists he meant it as a joke.  There is also no evidence that anyone actually took the tweet to be a credible threat.  In fact there is evidence that the authorities themselves did not take it to be a credible threat.  However because there was the possibility that it could have been taken as a threat, thus far the conviction has held.

Quicklinks 2/4/2012

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Feb 042012
 

Brief bits from the last week:

Quicklinks 1/28/2012

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Jan 282012
 

Some items from the past week:

Quicklinks 12/31/11

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Dec 312011
 

From this past week:

Continue reading »

2012 EU Digital Content Policy

 Criminal IP Enforcement, Examples  Comments Off on 2012 EU Digital Content Policy
Dec 292011
 

This article from Paid Content describes upcoming EU policy initiatives for digital content:

The project’s primary pillar is creating a “single digital market” to boost entertainment download and streaming services across borders, including by simplifying content licensing and harmonising online payments access.

Towards that end, upcoming initiatives include:

  • Legislation to simplify cross-border content licensing;
  • “Restart[ing] a dialogue among industry stakeholders on copyright levies”;
  • Revision of the Directive on enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRED) to address online piracy; and
  • Developing “an action plan to boost e-commerce, including by making online payments affordable and secure across borders.”

The article indicates many of these items have already been detailed by Professor Ian Hargreaves’ Review Of Intellectual Property And Growth, and the UK government has already promised implement his recommendations “in order to simplify IP law for the digital and to make economic stimulus.”

Recommended measures include creating a Digital Copyright Exchange, enabling automatic licensing of orphan works, decriminalising format-shifting and backing the EC’s cross-border licensing drive.

Iran blocks Britain

 Examples, Regulating speech  Comments Off on Iran blocks Britain
Dec 292011
 

This site was designed to track when state actors interfere with private actors’ technology use. But what happens when state actors affect other state actors? From Reuters, news that Iran has blocked Britain’s website.

Britain’s Foreign Office said Iranian authorities had barred access to a Foreign Office website, “UK in Iran” ukiniran.fco.gov.uk/en/, that carries information on British government policies and statements, including criticism of Iran’s human rights record.

It said the website had been added to thousands of other Internet sites censored by Iranian authorities.

No comment was immediately available from Iran.

“This action is counter-productive and ill-judged. It will confirm to the Iranian people that their government is determined to block their access to information, and to conceal from them the international community’s legitimate concerns about Iran’s policies and behavior,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

“It will also make it harder for Iranian nationals to access information about visiting the UK. And it is further proof to the rest of the world (of) the Iranian government’s dire record on freedom of speech and human rights in general,” he said.

“This action will not deter Britain from continuing to engage with the Iranian people, including through the Internet.”

The website blocking comes as escalation of tensions between the two countries, which has included the closing of embassies and expulsion of diplomats.

Town council used surveillance law to spy on citizens and staff

 Examples, Privacy from government  Comments Off on Town council used surveillance law to spy on citizens and staff
Dec 282011
 

This article in the Lancaster Telegraph suggests the practice may have ended in 2007, but between 2000 and then the Burnley Council used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) of 2000 to spy on its own staff.

The regulation was brought in in 2000 and allowed council bosses to carry out surveillance on residents they suspected of committing crimes.

The vast majority of uses of the act relate to offences such as benefit fraud, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour.

A Burnley Council spokesman said: “The vast majority of cases where we have used RIPA authorisations were to tackle noise nuisance, anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping and benefit fraud – all things we know our residents want us to sort out.

Continue reading »

Contempt of court for UK mom posting family court papers on Facebook

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Dec 242011
 

The Northhampton Chronicle & Echo has an article about an English mother who was charged with contempt of court after posting on her Facebook profile the judgement by the same judge that had removed two of her children from her custody.  Per the article she also criticized the judge and children’s guardian in eight posts made between August 30 and September 10 and invited 15 friends to comment.  For this she was charged with breaching the Administration of Justice Act 1960 for having revealed the confidential details of the proceeding, as well as the identities of the children and the guardian.  (Notably, the article did not even mention the woman’s name for fear of running afoul of the same law.)

Finding her in contempt of court, Judge Waine said: “I can readily understand it was a somewhat limited number of people and a limited number invited to access it. But the problem I can see from a series of Facebook entries is that … they would be in a position of passing it on to anyone. Once they got to see it, she loses all control of it beyond that invited individual. I have to take the view that this matter is extremely serious and a prison sentence is absolutely inevitable. This is an increasingly common problem and needs to be stamped out. Continue reading »